Your GMAT journey will be both challenging and rewarding. You will have highs and lows. There will be days that will build your confidence and then other days you will want to forget about completely. We have all had those days: you are studying and you feel like you can’t get any question right. But before you crumble up that paper, wipe clean that dry erase board, or power down that computer, STOP! Document your struggles and capture that data!
Why Keeping an Error Log is So Important
Our mistakes are chock full of information about our test taking abilities, strategies, and more importantly, our habits. Whether you’re GMAT studying for the first time or preparing for a retake, a critical look at how we approach, solve, and check our work will not only direct us to which areas we should study next, but will make us conscious about the bad habits we exhibit every time we attempt a GMAT problem.
We are always told to review our questions after we complete practice problems and the best way to advance your skills is by using a GMAT Error Log!
I know what you’re thinking: not another GMAT wonder tool you have to buy to achieve your goal score.
We get it. The GMAT is not only taxing on you mentally, physically, and socially (no one wants to hang out with the guy with Critical Reasoning flashcards at the party), but the GMAT is also COSTLY! That’s the beauty of the GMAT Error Log—it’s a completely free tool! Even better, keep reading and I will share with you a template I use to save you time on finding one online.
Yes, the power of self evaluating your GMAT progress can be yours with a few clicks of a mouse!
How to Use an Error Log
GMAT prep is broken down into three parts: Content, Problem Solving, & Testing.
What I have seen that keeps test-takers from earning their top score is that they haven’t spent enough time in the Problem Solving stage. Test-takers would read 100% of the material and complete 4 to 5 practice CAT exams, but would only successfully complete 20-30% of all the questions on the Magoosh platform and even less when it comes to the Official Guide.
Knowing the ratios of a 30-60-90 triangle, how to FOIL, or what is a noun is important, but you must drill these topics in various various ways to really understand these concepts and how to answer these questions on the exam.
Taking CAT exams in isolation will not improve your score. It is in careful review and reflection is where you will develop skills and earn points. CAT exams are a major time investment and are extremely valuable, so you don’t want to waste too much time to only answer 30 or more random questions.
What I have seen successful test-takers do is create mini problems sets (5, 8, 10, or 16 questions) and use those as a sample test to gauge their skill set. In these practice problems is where the GMAT Error Log shines!
Let’s say each day for a week, you complete 10 to 20 random problems of various question types and difficulties. You are bound to miss a few questions. What most people do when they get a question wrong is read the explanation, say “oh I got it,” and move on.
Here is where you leverage the GMAT Error Log. Not only will you read the explanation, you will also input the question you got wrong in the Error Log, what you did wrong, and what you will do differently next time.
This seems like a small task today, but in the beginning, it can feel very daunting. After about 20 or so questions, though, you will get into the habit of updating your error log and begin to see the fruits of your labor.
Leading up to a test day, a great Error Log can be a great review tool right before a CAT exam.
When I work with my test-takers I teach them how to build a detailed Error Log with great care because it is those careless errors or habits that are written in the Error Log that jumps your GMAT score from a 620 to 650 or 690 to that 700.
- Check out our GMAT expert’s suggestions on creating, reviewing, and maximizing your Error Log—so you never make the same GMAT mistakes more than once!
How to Structure Your GMAT Log
Your Error Log does not need to have many bells and whistles. It doesn’t need to be something with macros and automated graphic generators. It doesn’t have to be a spreadsheet or digital at all. I actually keep two logs – an old school black and white marble notebook and a digital copy.
The Error Log just has to fit your method of note-taking and meet your dedication to the process.
Error Logs lose value when they are not updated. You only get out of the Error Log what you put in. I can never guarantee your score to improve, but I can say that having a running list of all your mistakes can help prevent you from making them again.
- Write down the source and question number, type of problem, and the concepts being asked in the problem. These are your basic details that will help you notice patterns
- Next, write answers to some key questions:
- Why did you miss the question?
- Why was your answer wrong?
- Why was the correct answer correct?
- What will you do to avoid this next time around?
This sounds extremely simple, because it is – the challenging part is sticking to the habit.
After a few weeks, you will have an error log that you will cherish and will be excited to fill it up. So go out there and make some GMAT mistakes! I am here to help you—feel free to comment below and include a copy of your own error log and I will provide you some feedback and additional examples.